This was supposed to be a Canada/New England cruise, with a repositioning at the end to Ft. Lauderdale, where Emerald Princess will spend the winter season. We are from Atlantic Canada and took this cruise for the US ports we were supposed to visit - Bar Harbor, Boston, Newport, New York and Charleston. Charleston turned out to be the only port we actually made it to, other than a service call in Boston, when no one was allowed off the ship except for the 90 passengers who had originally planned to end the cruise in New York.
On the second day in Quebec City, we were informed that they were monitoring Hurricane Sandy and were going to stay in calm Canadian waters until the danger from the Hurricane was past. So we entered the "Magical Mystery Tour" segment of the cruise (so named by the Cruise Director), where we visited unexpected ports such as Saguenay, (Quebec), Cornerbrook, (Newfoundland) and Saint John, (New Brunswick). Since we already live in this part of the world, these were of little interest. And I suspect most of the other 590 or so Canadians on board felt the same way.
It became obvious after awhile that, aside from avoiding the storm, which certainly cannot be criticized, Princess's main concern was to limit their extra costs in dropping off the 90 New York departing passengers, leaving the 2900 other passengers with very disappointing substitutions for the US ports missed. Magically, we arrived in Boston on the day we had originally planned to be in New York, and the 90 departing passengers were put on buses headed to the three NY area airports, thus minimizing the cost to Princess. We could have easily sailed out around the storm and gone to Nassau, Bermuda, or Princess Cays and still arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on time. In fact, there appeared to be no reason we could not have made full day stops in Bar Harbour and/or Boston, if they had not wasted so much time stalling in Atlantic Canada.
So the itinerary turned out to be a complete disappointment. No compensation was offered, and the Captain, who early on acknowledged he was getting plenty of suggestions from passengers on where we could go as alternatives to New York, disappeared from view completely from Boston onwards and was never seen or heard from again. I suspect he left the ship in Boston. It was disgraceful that he did not have the courage to face the passengers, especially at the Captains Circle party for Elite and Platinum members, where he had earlier committed to attend. Added to my frustration was the fact that when he did speak over the public address system early in the cruise, he had such a heavy Italian accent he was barely understandable.
Aside the from the itinerary disaster, onboard it was a fairly good cruise. Emerald Princess seems to be in fairly good condition, although apparently is heading to drydock next April. My only serious complaint was that the bed in our cabin was the most uncomfortable I have ever encountered in 20 cruises. The mattress was in desperate shape. A couple of maintenance problems in the bathroom when we boarded were quickly fixed. Our room steward did a competent job, although he completely ignored the "Make Up Our Room" card we placed outside by 8 am in the mornings and it was often noon before our room was done.
We have not cruised on Princess for almost 4 years, due to a major disappointment with our last cruise on Star Princess in 2009. The food at that time in the Dining Room was very tasteless, and frankly I was expecting the same this time. To my surprise, the flavor of the food has improved tremendously, at least on this ship, and we were very satisfied with the evening meal. We were on fixed seating in the Da Vinci dining room. Our waiter Johnson was great, ably assisted by Tony. However, breakfast and lunch in the Da Vinci was another matter. Service was incredibly slow and the food often luke warm and fairly bland. Horizon Court food was mixed, but it was never overly congested when we were there.
The entertainment was also a mixed bag. Except for the final show, the production shows were poor. Maybe we have just seen too many. The other acts brought on the ship were mostly good, especially the hypnotist, which is something I had never encountered previously on a cruise. The Cruise Director Peter and his staff did a competent job. I really enjoyed the personality of Deputy Cruise Director Frenchie, as well as Ryan, who is crazy. But my main criticism of the entertainment is the impact from having a extra deck added to the latest Princess ships like the Emerald without increasing the public space,especially the theatre. As a result, they now have to do three shows a night instead of two, and they have shortened the shows to about 30 minutes - hardly worth showing up for. And if you go to the first show, as we did, the congestion outside the theatre after the show from people waiting to get into the second show is terrible, all the way back to the mid-ship elevators (which were also terribly slow at peak periods).
So, the cruise was a major disappointment. Even with the surprise new ports added to replace the missed ones, we were cheated out of one port day. Absolutely no apology or compensation offered by Princess.
Will I cruise on Princess again any time soon? NO!